A lullaby that paints serenity
“Away in a Manger” is as blissful and sweet as one can find a Christmas carol. A lullaby that moves the listener. It transports us to our youth, to these first chapters of our life. Yet is this quiet gem a prayer? Or is it an ode or a ballad celebrating the very essence of Christmas?
What this means for us
Words and a melody that take many of us back to our childhood. It is sweet and powerful, serene and beautiful. Many would agree that “Away in a Manger” is a touching ode to children and young people. Yet his lyrics and music also touch the hearts of adults. It is a Christmas carol that resonates with us. Trace a path in the past. Our affection for her prevails.
The origins of “Away in a Manger” Carol
According to sermonwriter.com and other sources, the original creator of the anthem is a mystery. The origin of this soothing melody is unknown. One of the most popular notions is that Martin Luther wrote it for his children. This idea comes from a collection of children’s songs published in 1887 by James Murray. James had added the Christmas carol and with it he had written a note. An excerpt from the note read: “Luther’s Cradle Hymn, Composed by Martin Luther for his children.”
However, there is speculation that Murray obtained it from an earlier songbook released by the German Lutherans in Pennsylvania. Murray, aware of Martin Luther’s talent at composing church music, had assumed that it had been conceived by him. It was after James published it in 1887 in “Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses” that it spread across America.
In 1892, Charles Hutchinson Gabriel, composer, poet and publisher, published a new edition of the Christmas carol. Charles had titled it ‘Cradle Song’ and published it in ‘Gabriel’s Vineyard Songs’.
It is said that “Away in Manger” has three versions where one of its origins can be attributed to an old Austrian folk song.
A song is only a moving instrumental where the finality of meaningful lyrics can complete it. Imagine a beautiful painting sketch finished with the shades and pops of color. This is the power of words. “Away in a Manger” is as much a children’s lullaby as it is a Christmas carol. It sounds like a child’s prayer before bedtime.
Its six lines form a simple narrative arc. The first and second verses speak of the absence of a cradle. The Lord Jesus not having a suitable place to rest is nestled to sleep on the hay. Yet while he is asleep, the countless stars above gaze down upon him.
The third verse refers to the manger. “The cattle moo” and “the baby wakes up”. Yet we are told that the baby is not easily alarmed or alerted: “He is not crying”.
The fourth and fifth verses shed a different light. They speak of the singer calling for the direction of the Lord at all times.
‘And stay by my side,’ Until morning is near ‘/ And even’ I ask you to stay, Close to me forever. ‘
The last verse is a selfless prayer asking that all the children of the earth be protected. He speaks of “tender care” and, in an interesting climax, asks the Lord to “take us to heaven, to live with you there.”
“Away in a Manger” is a base song of the season, much like “Silent Night” or “Deck the Halls” or even “Twelve Days of Christmas”. A lullaby hymn that paints a serene and beautiful picture of the birth of Christ with a memorable melody. With its poignant message and tones of peace, joy and hope, it makes for a perfect and purposeful Christmas carol.
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